28 March 2011

Corned Beef on Rye

Dear Mitchell,
I’d like to explain what happened to the corned beef on rye (no mustard, to prevent sogging) sandwich I purchased for you at the Second Street Deli in New York City. Of course, I fully intended to deliver said culinary delight to you upon my arrival in Minnesota, but a significant mishap  occurred to it at the airport during security screening. Alas, I arrived home without the sandwich. But I want you to know that it was a beautiful sandwich and appeared quite delicious: this is no small praise, for as you will certainly recall, I am a vegetarian!! I want you to be assured that a half-sour kosher pickle was included in the package! The counterman (a not-very-friendly but very typical New York counterman, dressed in a white uniform and apron and slightly paunchy) wrapped the sandwich carefully in that white, semi-waxed paper common to New York delicatessens, and placed the pickle in the fold outside of the sandwich itself to prevent any pickle juice from leaking onto the fresh rye bread. I timidly requested that the counterman double wrap the meal, and that for safety measure, he place a piece of scotch tape across the top to prevent it from accidentally opening during transportation. Actually, I don’t think the counterman liked me very much; to add just a bit of my history to the exchange I told him a Sven and Ole joke, but he did not laugh. 
Since we were traveling to New York City for a full week, I had purchased a piece of luggage that would accommodate sufficient sartorial possibilities to ensure that I would remain fresh in appearance and au courant in dress. Thus, rather than my usual travel habit of carrying my baggage on-board, I checked my luggage for an additional twenty-three dollars. (The emotional baggage I carried with me came aboard with no extra charge.) 
Now, getting to New York, of course, was not a problem; all that occupied my suitcase were an assortment of shirts and pants, some sweaters, socks, (a requisite number of unmentionables), several pairs of shoes, my running apparel, four or five books (who could predict what mood I might be in!), toiletries, vitamins, and my teddy bear. All passed through security with only a minimum of concern. The TSA attendant did ask me who I voted for in the past election and what I thought of the situation in the Middle East, but finally she let me through to my gate. She looked a bit askance at the teddy bear. 
It was on the return trip that I ran into some trouble. As I said, I purchased the said corned beef on rye sandwich (no mustard, to prevent sogging, because even I know you can’t eat a corned beef on rye without mustard!), and a half-sour pickle on the side on 18 March, Friday, the day before we left New York City to fly back to Minneapolis. I placed the sandwich in the center of my new suitcase nestled between my vitamins and my teddy bear to prevent it being in any way damaged.  I felt comfortable that the sandwich was secure and would not be disturbed during the flight or from rough handling by the airport luggage handlers.
But I did not figure on the Transportation Security Authority. I carried the bag over to the scanners—the ones that look like CT scanners or MRI machines and handed it over to the wary man operating the site. I wished him a good day, a move which I suspect raised his suspicions. On top of that, behind me stood a woman carrying a little Chihuahua dog with whom she was traveling who started barking vigorously at my bag as the attendant passed it through the scanner. That is, the dog started barking and the woman just giggled. I suppose the dog was imagining it was some guard dog or part of the police K-9 corps! Ha! But I think that the barking placed the guard on his guard.
As the bag passed through the scanner, some kind of detector began to sound and the attendant ran behind the machine and pulled my bag off of the line. He demanded I open my luggage for inspection, and when I did so the Chihuahua chewed its way out of the container in which it had been nervously pacing and jumped into my luggage and began pawing its way to the sandwich. The dog’s owner did manage to pull it out before it reached the semi-waxed paper, but by that time the attendant was sure I was a drug smuggler and that I had hidden a large stash of marijuana in my bag. Before I knew it I was surrounded by police officers all of whom had drawn their guns and pointed them directly at me. Of course, I raised my hands!
The police officers took the luggage and me into a side room and began pulling out my very neatly packed items. I was appalled at the mess they were causing, and voiced not a few objections. They bypassed my unmentionables, and they were kind to say nothing about the teddy bear even after they passed it through the x-rays. (I hope it doesn’t get cancer!)
Then, they found the sandwich! At first, wearing sterile gloves and face masks, they smelt it. Their faces showed displeasure and aversion. When they asked what it was, I told them it was a corned beef on rye sandwich (no mustard) and a half-sour kosher pickle. The lieutenant stood up quickly from the table and pulled out his revolver and, pointing it at me, asked if I thought them fools. “Who would order a corned beef on rye without mustard? You are a terrorist and this is a carefully disguised incendiary device.” I denied everything, and I told him you had specifically requested that I not add mustard so that the bread would not become soggy in transit, but he wouldn’t believe me. (By the way, the FBI might be making a visit to your house in the next few days. They have a few questions they’d like answered. I’d let Collette do most of the talking.) The officers talked amongst themselves sotto voce, and then they called in the bomb squad.
Needless to say, things went down hill from there. They put me in one of those full-body scanners, and I could hear someone snickering from the viewing booth. They brought me to an interrogation room where they questioned me for almost ten minutes, and then they said that though I had passed most of their tests, the contents of the package were still very suspect. And they took me to a window where I could look into another room, completely white, at the center of which lay the sandwich I had purchased for you at the Second Street Deli in New York City resting quietly on a small stool. Corned Beef on Rye, no mustard.
Then, as I watched in horror, the bomb squad, dressed in those big suits of inflammable white material and wearing complete protective head gear, entered the room and attached a series of wires to the sandwich still wrapped in the semi-waxed paper. They tip-toed back stealthily out of the room and shut the door. For about 30 seconds I experienced the most absolute silence I have ever known, and then there was a huge explosion, and when the smoke had cleared your sandwich was gone. They had blown it up!
After that things moved much more smoothly, and I made my flight home with just minutes to spare. Sorry about the sandwich. Look forward to seeing you soon.
Your friend,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every tyrant who has lived has believed in freedom - for himself.

01 May, 2011 07:25  

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